The end of year holidays can sometimes feel like a rocket you wish you could fall off of: full of parties, ceremonial lighting of candles and trees, family gatherings and epic eating. It can be a bit overstimulating, leaving people either needing to numb out via movie-binging sessions or just feeling a general malaise and ill-at-ease disappointment with no focal point.
When you’re just under four feet tall, that overstimulation reaches a fever pitch pretty quick.
Our extroverted three year old daughter takes holidays on like a roller coaster, hurtling herself into them with fervor, and then crashing in whiny meltdowns.
I asked one of her Waldorf-wise preschool teachers recently, at a meeting about festivals, “I want to start creating fun and meaningful traditions with my daughter, but it makes her overloaded so quickly! Obviously I am going to try to do less this year than I attempted last year, but what else can I do to help her?”
“Yes, you have to keep doing the things that matter to your family, as they are really important. Just get her into nature as soon as you can afterwards. It is the best equalizer.” she said. I was instantly suspicious, as I find getting into nature even more of a production than attending an urban holiday party, but I decided to take her advice this season.
After a wonderful Thanksgiving day, my daughter was way keyed up the following morning. In fact, she drove my husband and I bat-shit crazy with her constant barrage of anxious questions as we rode towards the Christmas tree farm. I did not enjoy that morning at all, even though she professed to love every minute of it. It was a very loud affair.
But when we got home and put the ornaments on the tree, I was awed by her sensitive take on our modest decorations. “This is the BEST tree EVER, Mama!” Our tree is not even as big as she is, and the only place we have for it is up on her play kitchen, with one of her old baby blankets as a tree skirt. However, to her, it was the greatest thing in the world, because it was right there in her space, and we had picked it out as a family, no matter how trying that outing was for my personal patience.
The next day, I had arranged for the real nature detox event, but after how that morning went, I wondered if it was all too much, not just for her, but for me as well. My husband was off to do a half-day Buddhist sit, to find his balance from within. Could I do it without him? It turns out that California-air-cure-all magic is not only fool-proof, it’s three-year-old-tantrum-proof. My friend Ciara and I got a City Car Share car and headed out to the Presidio, to take some hikes in the forests where sculptor Andy Goldsworthy has created three natural sculptures.
The adventure was nothing short of magical. Olive was so happy to be out in nature, which I am beginning to see as her habitat of choice, unlike this urban mama of hers. I was stoked to be seeing in person the work of an artist I have loved ever since seeing the poignant documentary about his work, Rivers and Tides, which taught me more about failure and perseverance than any other work of art I’ve ever experienced.
We made the whole morning of it, eventually getting to take in all three of the Goldsworthy pieces, including the new one, Tree Fall. We took big, deep, gulping breaths of the pine air. I feared poison everything, but I picked pinecones anyway. We explored with sticks and rocks. And, of course, at Olive’s insistence, we danced.
On Thanksgiving Day, my toast at the adult table was a little dark, wanting to acknowledge our blessings but also the history of genocide in our country, and our need to pour love and care back into the land we have so misused. Going out into the forest this weekend was also my way to bring honor to this Earth, and some of my hopes for its future.
It’s such a bonus that it totally grounded my child, as well. I am definitely doing this after every holiday – we’ve already booked a coastal cabin for Christmas Day and a few after, to let the nature detox do its wonders on us after the craziness of this season.
Today is the first day of Advent, which is meant to be a time of meditating on the dark, and preparing for the light with reflection. I hope that I am able to hold on to that as much as I can in the coming month, but even if I fail and overdo it as usual, at least I know how to get my balance back afterwards. I am feeling so grateful and refreshed, and it didn’t even mess up my classy home manicure. This whole nature thing – maybe it’s not so bad?